Andrew under fire from the Palace
Queen did not give blessing to BBC interview, says royal source, as Duke faces fresh controversy over Epstein claims
THE Queen did not give her approval for the Duke of York’s Newsnight interview about his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.
Palace insiders last night accused the Duke’s private office of “operating in a silo” as it emerged Her Majesty was only made aware of the primetime interrogation by Emily Maitlis after it had been set up.
Rather than ending speculation about the Duke’s behaviour, the hourlong programme revived the controversy and generated fresh questions about his movements and various “alibis” he gave.
Serious questions were being asked at the Palace about why the Duke had been exposed to a no-holds-barred interview without any preconditions attached. It left him having to answer repeated questions about whether he had ever had sex with Virginia Roberts Giuffre, an Epstein sex slave, when she was 17, or with other young girls.
One former senior courtier described the interview as “excruciating” while others said it was a “car crash”, but sources close to the Duke said he stood by his decision and claimed he had answered the questions with “honesty and humility”.
It came as the Prince of Wales was urged to consider downgrading the Duke’s status as a working royal when he becomes king. The Duke also faced questions over a £15,000 loan his exwife Sarah, Duchess of York, accepted from Epstein, particularly regarding whether he had a hand in arranging the loan and whether it was made before or after the Duke claims to have cut off contact with the disgraced billionaire.
Evidence emerged yesterday that conflicted with his explanation for why Ms Giuffre’s claims of sex with him were wrong. In particular, his suggestion that a photograph of him with his arm around her waist could have been faked because he never wore casual clothes in London was undermined by pictures of him wearing a near-identical outfit on a night out in the capital.
Meanwhile, the NSPCC distanced itself from the Duke, former patron of its Full Stop campaign, after he said his role meant he “knew what to look for” if children were being abused. The charity told The Telegraph: “Prince Andrew was a patron of the NSPCC Full Stop Campaign, which ended in 2009.”
Royal insiders left little doubt yesterday about the level of anger among Palace staff at the Duke’s decision to grant the BBC interview, and about the advice he was given.
One royal source said: “The statement Buckingham Palace issued said the Queen was aware of the interview but not that she approved it. It’s extraordinary how this has unfolded, without any real consultation with the Palace press office or even the Queen’s private office. It does seem as if the Duke of York’s private office is operating in a silo, which is really quite dangerous because there is a lack of accountability there. Internally, this is being seen as a f--- up.”
A Palace spokesman would only refer to a previous statement that the Queen was “aware” of the interview.
“We cannot comment further,” she added. One royal adviser said: “This interview was completely unprecedented in offering a royal up for one hour on one subject without any questions being off limits.
“Ordinarily you would say to the
THE Prince of Wales has been urged to consider downgrading the Duke of York’s role as a working royal when he becomes king, in the wake of his disastrous television appearance.
The Prince is not believed to have been informed about his younger brother’s Newsnight interview until shortly before broadcast. The fallout is likely to overshadow the beginning of his week-long tour of New Zealand with the Duchess of Cornwall, which begins in Auckland today.
The Prince is said to have regarded his brother’s decision to grant the interview with “incredulity and alarm” and had considered it “misguided”.
A senior royal source, noting the public backlash, told The Daily Telegraph: “It’s possible the Prince of Wales could decide to remove the Duke of
York’s status as a working royal when he becomes king. “It’s no secret that Charles wants to streamline the monarchy when he eventually succeeds the Queen, and they have had plenty of disagreements in the past over Andrew’s role and that of his daughters.
“The Newsnight interview won’t have done anything to help Andrew’s argument that he and his family should have a more high-profile role.”
The Duke’s decision to speak to the
BBC was made in a bid to draw a line under claims that he slept with a 17-year-old girl, and questions about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender, and to prevent the allegations from further distracting from his charity work.
However, the extraordinary 45-minute interview had the opposite effect, with palace insiders and royal observers calling it “a disastrous PR move”.
The Duke and his older brother were born 12 years apart and are thought to have a distant relationship.
Their relationship came under strain in 2012 when the Prince made his future vision of a slimmed down monarchy clear by excluding wider family members from a Buckingham Palace balcony appearance during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. The Duke of York was said to be “furious” about being pushed to the margins of royal life.
At the time, he had only recently stepped down as Britain’s special international trade envoy amid questions about his business connections.
Similarly, the Duke had always pushed Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, his daughters, to have key working roles and was notably fond of pointing out that they were the only two “blood princesses” of a generation.
But he was dismayed when they too were marginalised and stripped of their 24-hour royal protection in a row over the £500,000 annual cost.
Peter Hunt, a respected former BBC royal correspondent, last night called upon the Prince to tell his brother to quit. “Their mother won’t – Andrew is one of her blind spots,” he said.
The Queen leaving the Royal Chapel of All Saints at Windsor Great Park yesterday morning as her son the Duke of York faced questions about his interview on Newsnight
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall arrive for their tour of New Zealand